First Circuit Affirms Challenge to City of Quincy Ordinance Restricting Competition on City Projects

First Circuit Affirms Challenge to Local Ordinance Restricting Competition on City Projects: In a case of first impression, and on behalf of Merit Construction Alliance and its members, we successfully challenged the enforcement by the City of Quincy (Mass.) of the residency, apprenticeship and health and welfare benefits provisions of its so-called “Responsible Employer Ordinance” in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court's ruling, holding that the Responsible Employer Ordinance (REO) is unconstitutional under the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and is preempted by the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act. The decision has wide-ranging implications, as there are some 20 or more municipalities in the Commonwealth with similar ordinances, which are now vulnerable because they are arguably unenforceable.

MCA is a trade association of non-union (merit shop) contractors. It and other merit shop contractors around the country oppose laws like the Quincy REO because they unfairly limit their ability to compete for work that they are fully qualified to perform, in favor of union contractors. This victory has already led several Massachusetts municipalities to voluntarily suspend the enforcement of similar REOs enacted in their communities. It has also been cited by municipal officials in other areas of the country (including Florida) as the basis for rejecting attempts by the unionized building trades to pass similar laws in those jurisdictions.